There was a time in this century when many born in the baby boom post-WW II era raised self righteous lamentations lambasting the younger generations’ obsession with too much screen and too little face time and their apparent disconnect from social engagement, predicting all prior grassroots efforts, potent political progress and crucial cultural change which had been accomplished over the last fifty years would fade in importance while our progeny lost their way chasing the fading American Dream.
I am here to say not only were we myopic in our assessment, but wrong and sadly our own worst enemies in the battle.
At age 65, it is getting harder to regurgitate the acute emotions I felt during the arc spanning the mid-1960s to early 1970s. As a generation we were mythologized for participation in civil rights marches, anti-war protests and attending epic cultural events like the birth of Rock & Roll and Woodstock. Yet in truth, not everyone was dancing in the streets or on board the Peace Train when it was rolling. We faced as much conservative backlash delivered by domineering parents, regressive schools and prevailing cultural values to split our generation down the middle; its after effects remain, excruciatingly apparent this past election cycle.
The hard reality is that legions of Millennials spear-headed the progressive charge against Donald Trump, embracing Bernie Sanders’ progressive populist agenda while many Boomers hesitated to go deep and radical, choosing instead to give Hillary Clinton the nod in complacent resignation to the broken system that used to enrage us, but now disengaged us. They saw Bernie’s promise informed by our generation’s inculcation of positive liberal values on them, while we failed to see the potential tidal wave gathering offshore. Much as we had immersed ourselves in The Movement in our youth, our children felt ‘The Bern’ with a singular similar passion we should have recognized. It is hard to admit, but we had become soft and created our own nightmare.
We failed to see that we as a generation quietly slipped into a social and cultural disconnect far more destructive than the fate we predicted for those younger than us. Seduced by new technology, we lost touch with our own physical reality and spent more time online that walking the line. We showed ourselves to be even more addicted to social networking than our children. In doing so,we missed out on golden opportunities to further The Cause so many of us believed in when we were knee-deep in battle decades ago.
We have a chance now to redeem ourselves as humbled, vulnerable and experienced warriors, mentors and guides to those that follow us in the current political, social and cultural conflagration. We were schooled by giants: Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Joseph Campbell, Bob Dylan, Carl Sagan, Howard Zinn, Timothy Leary, Woody Guthrie. Malcolm X, Robert Kennedy, Bob Marley and countless others who linger only in the memories of survivors. Instead of retreating to the comfort of our digital cocoons, we need to turn off the screens, escape the home-cave and face down these demons In Real Life.
In fact, we have been given a rare second chance to resurrect our youthful passion in facing the intimidating power surge by conservative elements. Instead of bemoaning our losses, we must explore the opportunities afforded us to make a serious difference. We have been friends to Chaos and Change throughout our lives. This upending might be our defining moment, should we have the courage to peel back the armor, drop our shields and plunge headfirst into the fray once again. Otherwise, we are in danger of self-defeat and our own worst enemy.